SF Giants fans mourn the loss of baseball great Willie Mays

New York Giants Willie Mays No. 24(Photo By: Walter Kelleher/NY Daily News via Getty Images)

News of Willie Mays's death on Tuesday saddened San Francisco Giants fans, some of whom immediately went to Oracle Park to honor him at the Willie Mays Plaza. 

Fans were nostalgic as they gathered to remember the man they described as the greatest baseball player who ever lived. 
"So impressed that there were flowers there within minutes. It shows just how much the city loves him," said Giants fan Vincent DeLeon,"I was watching the game on TV, and they announced it in the middle of the inning. I just felt the need to come here and pay my respects."
Alexander Gardner, who is now 777, said as a teenager, he watched Mays play at Candlestick Park. 

He said he was stunned and sad when he heard the news of his death.

"It was like something hit me right in the chest," he said. 

But he recalled with fondness a lifetime of admiration and respect for Mays.


Willie Mays dies: Giants legend and MLB Hall of Famer was 93

Willie Mays, the electrifying "Say Hey Kid" whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball's greatest and most beloved players, has died. He was 93.

"When he came up to the plate, he put himself into a character. He knew when he was on the plate, I'm going to score.," he said.

And score Mays did – on and off the field.

Friend and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown said that early in Mays' baseball career, he served in the U.S. Army.

Brown said Mays would have easily exceeded his career total of 660 home runs, but that Mays was more than an exceptional athlete, he was an exceptional human being.

"Never in confrontation on anything, whether how much he was paid, whether or not somebody made a bad call in reference to him. Willie Mays was very unusual at the time and even now," Brown said. 

"He became the symbol for what people would want Black athletes to be like," Brown said of Mays. 

And fans said Mays carried himself that way throughout his life.  

Fan Craig Silverman shared photos of Mays when he came to a little league game to throw out the opening pitch in 2008.

"I'm going to miss him, gonna be hard I think. Means a lot to the Bay, right here in San Francisco, right here in San Francisco," said Silverman.  

Fans recalled Mays's nickname as the "Say Hey Kid," which referred to the spirited way he greeted his teammates. 

And it's that memory that brought smiles to their faces during this time of sadness as they cherish Mays's lasting legacy.    

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at Amber.Lee@Fox.com or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU,  Instagram @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @AmberKTVU.